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Honduras Defies Global Demands to Restore Deposed President


A standoff is deepening between officials in Honduras and the international community, which is demanding the reinstatement of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Analysts are divided over whether Honduras' newly-installed interim government can resist overwhelming international pressure to allow Mr. Zelaya's return to office.

Two days after the Honduran military sent him into exile, President Zelaya received the unanimous backing of the United Nations and the Organization of American States for his reinstatement.

The man who had been detained at gunpoint and exiled to Costa Rica in his pajamas basked in the support of the global community.

Mr. Zelaya vowed to fulfill his four-year presidential term, which ends in January.

The OAS has given Honduras three days to restore Mr. Zelaya or face expulsion from the body. OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza as well as several Latin American leaders have pledged to accompany the ousted leader on a return trip home. Governments throughout the Western hemisphere and much of the world have demanded Mr. Zelaya's reinstatement.

But Honduras' interim government remains defiant, saying that Mr. Zelaya faces arrest if he sets foot in the country.

Appearing at a rally in Tegucigalpa, interim President Roberto Micheletti said Mr. Zelaya forfeited his right to govern by insisting on a referendum that Honduras' Supreme Court had declared illegal.

Mr. Micheletti said the episode demonstrates that no man or woman who reaches the presidency is above the law.

Recent days have seen both pro- and anti-Zelaya demonstrations in Honduras, one of the world's smallest and poorest nations.

Whatever domestic support the interim government might enjoy, it will be hard-pressed to defy the international community's will, according to Peter Hakim of Washington's Inter-American Dialogue.

"Honduras is one of the weakest, most vulnerable countries in the region. It is a small country that depends very heavily on the U.S. economic relationship. Very difficult [for the interim government] to resist this kind of [international] pressure," he said.

But former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega is not so sure, saying that President Zelaya has been discredited in his own country.

"He [i.e., Zelaya] has gone against all of those institutions and, frankly, they do not want him back. It remains to be seen whether Zelaya will be restored to power. The U.S. and all these other countries may have the muscle to do that. I have serious doubts about that. I think the Honduran people have made a decision," he said.

Others note that Latin American nations have traditionally been reluctant to interfere in the internal affairs of their neighbors. And President Barack Obama, while declaring Mr. Zelaya's ouster a coup d'etat and illegal, has not moved to cut off U.S. aid to Honduras.

At the recent Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, Mr. Obama pledged U.S. cooperation and consultation rather than confrontation in the hemisphere.

Peter Hakim says this is a departure from the way the United States has treated Honduras and other Latin American nations in the past.

"Clearly in a place like Honduras, the U.S. did often bully its way around. That is a kind of pressure that is of a previous era. Now countries are expected to work multilaterally, work through persuasion," he said.

This tactic is being put to the test in Honduras, where the presidency is now claimed by two men and an interim government is locked in disagreement with the international community.

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